by Maki Enjoji
published by Viz; $9.99 US
I wasn’t going to talk about this book, because it’s slow, boring, and repetitive, but then I saw this review. Now, certainly, everyone is entitled to her opinion, but I couldn’t let the sentence, “Happy Marriage?! won’t disappoint josei fans looking for a new series to follow” stand without providing a counterpoint. I very much would like more josei manga available here, but not titles like this, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to any adult readers.
I’m not sure this is really josei, anyway — Viz is selling it as “mature shojo“. That’s a better description, since the plot elements are very typical of a manga aimed at teen girls.
Chiwa is an office lady who’s also working as a hostess to pay off her father’s debts and keep “the house with the garden my [late] grandmother loved so much.” She doesn’t trust men and has never really dated. She winds up married to the president of the company she works for because his grandfather was a servant to her grandmother and had a crush on her. We don’t find out why her husband agrees to the deal.
Chiwa has dreams of a marriage based on love, but she takes the deal for money, and she winds up cleaning up after her husband. (Quick, into the traditional gender roles!) Everyone seems to know what she needs or wants better than she does, a popular if disturbing romantic cliche. Everything that goes wrong, on the other hand, is her fault, whether it’s misunderstanding his (unspoken) intentions or forgetting to fill in the right paperwork. Probably because she never reacts if she’s can’t overreact.
There’s a requirement to keep their marriage a secret, in order to keep the company stock high, since his status as “the handsome bachelor president” is apparently part of the business image. (In cases like this, I always wonder why that’s more important than “not lying” in terms of reputation.) However, two chapters later, he’s telling a bunch of people that they’re wed, so I’m not sure why it matters. In another chapter, Chiwa gets jealous of his beautiful new personal assistant. No one bothers to actually talk to each other.
The art is typical, as well — heads floating in space, huge eyes reinforcing Chiwa’s helplessness, tall, dark, overpowering man. It’s rather sparse in terms of background and detail beyond figures. The adult part comes when Chiwa flashes her husband accidentally or they discuss her virginity; otherwise, this is just a high school romance in another costume. It’s very similar to Butterflies, Flowers, only that book had over-the-top exaggeration that could sometimes be amusing. This one just putters along from one cliche and familiar plot point to another. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)